March 09, 2014
You guys: I joined a team sport.
No, really! See, here in Okinawa, there's a big festival in the spring with dragon boat races. What's a dragon boat?
It's one of those. All of the services have men's and women's teams that compete along with teams from the different towns and cities on Okinawa. We saw one of the teams practicing last year and I told Raj I'd like to do it this year. I intended to join the Navy team. Then I found out that the Navy team practices at 4:45 AM. 0445 hours. Pre-dawn. And? No. That was not happening.
The Army team, on the other hand, practices at 5:15 PM. So, you know, hooah.
My neighbor, whose husband actually is in the Army, joined as well. I was kind of afraid that the team would be full of really buff active duty women, but it turns out it's mostly people like me, i.e., wives who are a little bit out of shape and looking to get out of the house and get a workout.
Holy cow, is it a workout. For the arms and shoulders, for sure, but also for the abs and legs to a surprising extent. See, the actual boats live in Naha, where the races take place. Most of our practices involve standing in waist-deep water in the East China Sea, attempting to remain upright while paddling, either while standing on slippery rocks or while waves try to knock us down. The alternative is sitting awkwardly on either side of a dock while leaning over the side and trying not to fall in.
We do get two practices in the boat at some point before the race, which is May 5. We just don't know yet when they will be, only that probably we'll get short notice and really need to be there if we expect to be rowing on race day. Except we're still short team members, so there's not so much concern about making varsity as that there will be enough of us to get the 4,000 pound boat going. I'm not in the group that's already been selected to be at the front of the boat, but I can make it through the five minute drills without needing any rest breaks, so that puts me solidly in the middle of the pack.
Last year, the Army women's team won their division, so the pressure is kind of on. Thanks to some turf war over practice space, we now have a furious desire to beat the Air Force team, which I suppose is a start. Now we just need to develop a grudge against the Navy and Marine teams and Okinawan rowers in general. And/or learn to row both quickly *and* together. Then we'll be all set.